Proposal to Allow Guns in Day Care Centers and Schools in Nevada

Assembly bill 148 is a resurrection by Republican Assemblywoman Michele Fiore who offered the same kind of bill she sponsored a few years ago.  The bill would allow those with “concealed carry permits” to be able to take their guns to not only K-12 schools and colleges, but day care facilities as well. 

The backers of the proposed bill use some of the most common myths about guns and have used the testimony of one expert, ardent champion of guns, John Lott, author of “More Guns, Less Crime.” The fact that his work has been completely discredited was apparently not known among the supporters of the bill.  I’ll have more to say about him later.

It’s hard to determine just what Fiore’s reason for continuing her advocacy of allowing people to carry guns to schools and day care centers.  In her support for such a measure, she uses a lot of vitriolic language, such referring to “Everytown for Gun Safety,” a legitimate organization that is against such legislation, as “anti-gun nuts from New York City.”   Recently she ran into a little hot water when she claimed that her legislation would allow “young, hot little girls” on college campuses to shoot anyone attempting to rape them.

There is no denying that rape on college campuses is a big problem as it has been estimated that one out of four college women will be the victim of a sexual assault. But Ms. Fiore is totally misguided if she thinks that women carrying a gun will prevent rape because as Professor John D. Foubert told the New York Times: “If you have a rape situation, usually it starts with some sort of consensual behavior, and by the time it switches to nonconsensual, it would be nearly impossible to run for a gun. Maybe if it’s someone who raped you before and is coming back, it theoretically could help them feel more secure.”  Indeed, the majority of sexual assaults are not committed by complete strangers.  Several studies have found that about 90% of women who are raped on college campuses know their attacker, which is why it is often called “acquaintance rape.” In most cases the rape occurred in someone’s residence, according to the National Institute of Justice. A recent post by Sam Bieler and Janine Zweig notes that the majority of these kinds of sexual assaults “do not involve physical violence, but alcohol or social pressure and verbal coercion. Even if a gun could fend off a physical attack, it’s meaningless when attackers’ weapons are familiarity and social pressure.”

They also note that women who buy guns ostensibly for their own protection are far more likely to be killed. They cite a study by the New England Journal of Medicine that concluded that: “In the first year after the purchase of a handgun, suicide was the leading cause of death among handgun purchasers, accounting for 24.5 percent of all deaths and 51.9 percent of deaths among women 21 to 44 years old.” Research reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that “keeping a gun in the home is associated with increased risk of both suicide and homicide of women.”

It must also be noted that this bill makes the assumption that most offenders are rational and will think twice about attacking someone, especially those who are armed. Indeed, as two colleagues (Terry Miethe and Tim Hart) noted in their report on a similar bill introduced a few years ago, “the typical mass murderer in school shootings is often so mentally impaired that he is unable to make rational decisions. The threat of detection or death from armed bystanders doesn’t appear to be a major concern because many of them are already prepared to die for their acts.” 

In short, having access to guns actually increases the likelihood of being the victim of violence with a gun, whether it be homicide or suicide.  Moreover, arguing that guns are needed to prevent an attack puts the burden solely on the victim, rather than the offender.

An especially insightful article appeared last year in the Boston Review.  Among other things the article gave the following example of a likely scenario on a college campus:

A 20/20 segment, “If I Only Had a Gun,” showed just how hopeless the average person is in reacting effectively to high-stress situations. In the segment, students with varying levels of firearm experience were given hands-on police training exceeding the level required by half the states in order to obtain a concealed carry permit. Each of these students was subsequently exposed to a manufactured but realistic scenario in which, unbeknownst to them, a man entered their classroom and begin firing fake bullets at the lecturer and students.

In each one of the cases, the reaction by the good guy with a gun was abysmal. The first participant, who had significant firing experience, couldn’t even get the gun out of his holster. The second participant exposed her body to the assailant and was shot in the head. The third, paralyzed with fear, couldn’t draw his weapon and was shot by the assailant almost immediately. The final participant, who had hundreds of hours of experience with firearms, was unable to draw his weapon and was shot at point blank range.

It is noteworthy that supporters of this and other bills around the country fail to mention the above evidence.

As for John Lott, who has been the darling of pro-gun advocates (and about the only one legislators can find as an “expert witness”), his theory (plus the methods he has used to support his argument that possession of guns deters violent crime) has been almost totally discredited in the academic community. A lot of this research is summarized here and here. Among the more prominent criminologists, sociologists and other academics that have refuted Lott (its curious that Fiore did not ask them to testify) include Franklin Zimring (UC Berkeley Law School), Gary Kleck) Florida State University), Albert Alschuler (University of Chicago Law School), David Hemenway (Harvard Department of Health Policy and Management), Ted Goetzl (Rutgers University, retired), Dan Nagel (Carnegie Mellon University) and Dan Black (University of Chicago), Ian Ayres (Yale Law School) and John Donohue (Stanford Law School), among others.

Perhaps the most serious criticism of Lott was that he engaged in fraud.  A case in point was when he used a fictitious person named Mary Rosh.  For a while “Mary” was a staunch defender of Lott, claiming to be one of his former students and insisting that his book needs to be read. Lott eventually admitted it.

A recent critique of Lott’s work concluded as follows: “Time and time again Lott has abused his academic credentials to peddle falsehoods. Instead of soberly presenting evidence, and letting the research speak for itself, Lott instead authored his own fan-base, fabricated evidence, manipulated models, mischaracterized data, and then attempted to bulldoze anybody that dared question the authenticity of his research. This is not the behavior of someone who is interested in truth-seeking; it is the behavior of an ideologue who is concerned only with making his opinions as loud and virulent as possible.”

In conclusion, there is no evidence that allowing people to carry guns on campus will make them safer and will prevent an attack.  This is especially the case for women for putting a gun in their hands will not act as a deterrent.  In fact, as noted above, it will make matters worse.  We live in a country that has more guns per capita than any other country in the world yet we still have the highest rate of gun violence.  SB 148 is a bad idea and should not be supported.